I regularly travel to my daughter's house on the Black Isle using the A9 trunk road between Perth and Inverness.
I totally agree with Rosemary Goring that the problem giving rise to so many traffic incidents lies with drivers and not the road itself ("How to drive real progress on the A9", The Herald, July 9).
I use the word incidents instead of accidents since I would guess that the majority of vehicle collisions could have been avoided had the drivers in question (in at least one of the vehicles) been driving within the limitations of the road layout, weather conditions and their vehicles' handling characteristics.
My career involved extensive travel, much of it on that same stretch of road, even before it was upgraded to its current standard, and the manner of driving has not changed in all the time I have been using it.
There are two significant factors which have a direct bearing on the current situation: the dramatic increase in the volume of traffic coupled with an equally significant decline in the presence of police patrolling the road. Surely the logical short-term solution is to divert resources into policing the road? I take particular note of the presence of police vehicles on major trunk roads and I can safely say that on every journey I have made on the A9 during the last three years, the only time I have seen a police vehicle is when it has been at the scene of an accident.
There is not the remotest deterrent to drivers. To my knowledge there is only one remaining speed camera on this road in the vicinity of Blair Atholl; not that it or any other similar device with their advance warnings would make a blind bit of difference.
I agree there is a need for speeding and dangerous drivers to be heavily penalised but the only way to bring that about is to deploy more police cars patrolling the entire road. The impact would be immediate, the cost a fraction of upgrading the existing road with no attendant disruption and peace of mind for regular drivers.
I cringe when I recollect a business colleague who, years ago, used to pride himself on the speed with which he could make the journey between Inverness and Perth, bragging about his knowledge of where on the road he was likely to encounter a police presence. His only fear was coming before a sheriff at Newtonmore who had a reputation for handing down severe penalties to offending motorists on the A9.
John E Seenan,
3 Kippen Drive, Busby.
As a former police officer who at one time or another was responsible for policing all the main routes and motorways in west central Scotland, I have had the experience of dealing with the aftermath of accidents and with the bereaved relatives of the victims on Scotland's other once-notorious routes – the former A77 that crossed Fenwick Moor and former A74 that linked Scotland with England. Thankfully they are both now motorway standard routes.
I understand fatalities on those relatively new motorways are now few and far between. Having seen driving standards from behind the wheel of a police patrol car, and from my own car, I know the presence of a marked police vehicle makes driving a much more pleasant experience. However, scarce police resources means officers cannot be everywhere at the one time and that is why I would argue that the dualling of the A9 should start sooner than is planned.
Sizeable towns and urban areas are without a viable or visible police presence. You can drive for miles on the main routes through Scotland (including the A9) and never see a marked patrol car. This is the current situation. With a single national police force the power and resources will gravitate to the centre. This happened with regionalisation to a lesser, but none the less significant, degree.
Policing is all about people and the interaction between the public and their police service.
31 Ardbeg Road,
Rothesay, Isle of Bute.
I have driven on the A9 in a variety of vehicles including HGVs since 1963. Prior to retiring, I routinely attended fatal/ serious road traffic collisions at police request for 22 years to examine the vehicles involved to determine whether vehicle defects were a contributory factor and attended court to give evidence as required.
I came to the overall conclusion that, although defects were in some cases to blame in some incidents, it was commonly "the nut behind the wheel" of at least one of the vehicles involved who was culpable.
A major factor is that, although the performance of the vehicles has improved dramatically over my driving lifetime, the standard of driving has not.
An example of the performance of HGVs alone is that in the 1960s a typical heavy truck had around 150bhp available to the driver. Today trucks can easily have 450bhp on tap. Many cars now commonly on sale are "electronically limited" to 155mph with acceleration times of 0-60 in five seconds.
This, with a national speed limit of 70mph, beggars belief. The A9 was never designed to cope with performance of this nature. Indeed, the long sweeping bends commonly found on this road were a deliberate design feature intended as a traffic calming measure to slow vehicles and prevent snow build up in winter. I live close to a dual carriageway section of the A9 where speeders have been caught on a number of occasions travelling in excess of 120mph with one notable case of 135mph. This is at the junction where I have to join or cross the A9 from a minor access road.
I would support Rosemary Goring's appeal for more stringent penalties to be applied by the courts, especially where the speed alleged is in excess of 100mph. I believe the penalties available at present could be more stringently applied in the short-term with stiffer penalties being made available if found necessary. I would suggest there is little excuse for speeds in excess of 100mph. Such a speed should automatically be considered reckless driving.
A major benefit of these measures is that there would be no cost to the taxpayer and implementation could be immediate.
As a frequent user of the A9, driving my supermarket articulated lorry, I routinely witness all the antics Rosemary Goring so accurately describes.
Among my pet hates are the selfish drivers who seem incapable of completing a competent overtake despite clear vision and a vehicle whose performance would allow them to pass in the blink of an eye. Add to this their reluctance to leave a space between my vehicle and their own and they cause frustration by denying more competent drivers an opportunity to make safe progress.
I regularly pull in to lay-bys to allow traffic to pass. This often includes much faster-moving trucks whose drivers are presumably paid handsomely to put their licences and consequently their livelihoods at risk. Suicidal overtakes over the hatch markings at the end of dual carriageways are another major cause for concern. There is no such thing as a dangerous road; only inappropriate driving.
71 Charles Street,
The standard of driving on the A9 throughout its length from Edinburgh to Inverness is abominable.
The main problem is impatience, compounded by relatively few landmarks recognisable to the majority to indicate progress of the journey. The road is lacking in a shortage of places where it is safe to try to overtake.
A recent report suggested that the split of incidents was more per mile on dual carriageway of the A9 than on the single carriageway sections. If that is correct, it makes the dualling of the A9 likely to increase the death and injury rates.
The A77 used to be regarded as the most dangerous road in Scotland. Completion of the M77 and average speed cameras south from Symington appear to have taken the "dangerous" mantle from that road.
Presumably, then, the short-term answer is to provide average speed cameras on the A9.
Edward A Cochrane,
36 Kilpatrick Gardens,
Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.
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